Maryland's House Majority Whip Anthony G. Brown has formed an exploratory committee to consider a run for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, becoming the third elected official to publicly express interest in replacing five-term incumbent J. Joseph Curran Jr., should he step down.

"We're looking to assess the viability of a campaign," Brown said yesterday. An Army reservist who completed a nine-month tour in Iraq this year, he said he intends to announce a decision before the start of the 2006 General Assembly session in January.

Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler and Montgomery Council President Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring) also have taken steps toward a possible campaign.

Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, who has been mentioned as a potential contender, said yesterday that he is mulling things over. "I haven't made a final determination yet," said Ivey, who added that he plans to make an announcement about his future next month. "It's a family decision at this point."

All of the possible candidates have said they will not officially launch a campaign until Curran decides whether he will seek reelection next year. Curran, whose office did not return a phone message yesterday, has said he intends to run again. But because his son-in-law, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D), is running for governor, questions about his future persist.

"Unless and until Mr. Curran says he is no longer interested in running for attorney general, there is no race for attorney general," said Gansler, who has raised more than $1 million for a likely run. "Joe Curran is the linchpin in what people are calling an AG's race."

Brown, who has frequently been mentioned as a running mate for either Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) or O'Malley, said he returned from Iraq to a "groundswell of support and a lot of encouragement for [him] to look at several statewide offices.

"After carefully considering it, I believe I can bring the necessary talent and skills to this office to best serve Marylanders," said Brown, a Harvard University-educated lawyer.

Much of Brown's support has come from black elected officials, many of whom are reeling from the Democratic Party's unwillingness to put a black candidate on the statewide ticket in 2002. Instead, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican, became the first black elected statewide in Maryland.

"It jolted the Democratic Party in Maryland," said Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah (D-Prince George's). "And we're still trying to find ourselves."

In recent months, many black members of the party have touted Brown and Ivey, also a Harvard law grad, as possible candidates.

"I do think there is a strong feeling in the Democratic Party, among elected officials and voters, that we need an African American in one of the statewide positions, either lieutenant governor, comptroller or attorney general," said Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's).

Lawlah said there is an effort among black members of the Democratic Party to encourage widespread support in the party for a black candidate. Some black leaders were dismayed to see party leaders rally around the Senate candidacy of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore, who is white, instead of Kweisi Mfume, the former congressman and NAACP leader from Baltimore, who is black.

Lawlah said the 10 black state senators who represent Prince George's, Baltimore City and Baltimore County have put together a slate, the Committee of 10, created, in part, to "recruit and sponsor an African American for the attorney general's office."

The committee plans to hold fundraisers, endorse candidates and place candidates on each of the senators' respective tickets, Lawlah said.

"We're not going to deal with what we dealt with in 2002," Lawlah said. "We're going to take it in our hands and move on this."

The Committee of 10 met with Brown yesterday.

Currie said he is pleased with the diverse field of candidates who have stepped forward for the attorney general's job, particularly Brown, whom he described as "second to none."

Anthony G. Brown served in Iraq.